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Home » » Comment on the short story in Modern English literature with special reference to the more important short story- writers.

Modern English literature with special reference

Short story is a recent form of literature which is very popular in the modern time. The short story has firmly established itself as a favourite form in modern english  literature"  says Hudson. Indeed, the popularity of this form is so great that it is regarded as the coming form of fiction. Some begin to say that it will displace the novel from its pride of place. This type of remark might appear as too extravagant of claim. But there is no doubt that it will remain the most favourite kind of fiction in a modern busy world. Its popularity is due to various factors. The most important factor is the mad rush and hustle of life. We have no leisure today to read long novels. Besides, there are so many calls on our short leisures like radio, cinema, newspapers, magazines and even multi purpose computer and cell phone. These instruments of modern life are part and parcel. So the short story is the kind of literature which is best suited to the modern life.

Modern English Literature


  • Short story may be regarded as a small slice of the hours of relaxation for the modern people. As our discussion is related to this important genre of literature, we have to have the sound idea of it. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,"A short story is a brief fictional prose narrative that is shorter than a novel and that usually deals with only a few characters."A short story is a story that can be easily read at a single sitting", says an eminent critic. A good definition is given by Edgar Allan Poe who is called the father of the modern short story. He defines, "A short story is a story prose narrative requiring from a half hour to one or two hours in its perusal." In other words, we can say that it is a brief work of prose fiction which is limited to a very few characters, a single setting and a single incident. Its length may be from five hundred words to about fifteen thousand words. On the basis of their themes, short stories may be roughly classified as the love story, adventure story, detective story, psychological story, scientific story social story etc.

Short story has some well-marked characteristics that distinguish it from the novel. The difference lies in the motive, scope, plan and structure. A short story should impress us as absolutely clear in outline. It is well proportioned and full enough for the purpose. It is without the slightest suggestion of crowding. It is complete with its own framework. It may not be strictly confined to one single incident or motive. But it may have the multiplicity of situations which must be effectively handled within its limited range. A short story should aim at unity of impression. So tragedy and comedy should not be blended together in it. A true short story must fulfil all these  conditions. Then it will be fruitful, enjoyable and attractive.

The short story is a distinct form of literature. It is a thing of comparatively recent origin. But its germ can be traced in the literature of the remote past. It is the American writer Edgar Allan Poe who is the pioneer of the short story. In his successful stories, he has employed the elements of the artistic technique. Masters of the art of short story writing have been influenced by his technique. The short stories of France, Russia and England are also influenced by Poe's style. Another American writer, Hawthorne is remarkable in this respect. By 1860 in America, France and Russia, the short story had become a notable literary form. Balzac, Maupassant, Gogol, Turgenev and Tchekhov are famous names.

In the 20th century, Maupassant and Tchekhov had particularly influenced the short story writers in England. Before them, it was written by the English novelists as the occasional by products. Hardy, Bennet, Conrad, Galsworthy, Kipling and H.G. Wells had already written some original short stories apart from their novels. Afterwards, G.K. Chesterton, Saki, Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster and D.H. Lawrence wrote many short stories. Chesterton is a poet, critic, essayist and a novelist. He has written many tales of fantasy in his Club of Queer Trades. Graham Green writes sketches of childhood in The Golden Age. Saki has composed witty stories on the English upper class on social and domestic scene. Tales of Five Towns and The Grim Smile of the Five Towns are the two volumes of short story of Arnold Bennet. Mansfield writes a new kind of short story under the influence of Tchekhov. This influence is evident in her In A German Pension written in 1911.

The Celestial Omnibus is written by Forster and The Prussian Officer by Lawrence in 1914. The full impact of their works was delayed until after the war. In the 1920s, the short story came fully into its own in the field of English short stories. Modern short stories evoke atmosphere and moods rather than depict characters and situations.  Conrad's Legoon", Joyce's Araby" and Lawrence's The White Staking" are the famous and popular short stories in the Modern Period. In addition to them, Mansfield's "The Fly", Bates's "The Ox and Maugham's "Lotus-Eater" are some of the representative modern short stories.

From our above discussion, we can say that short story has gotten its full shape and dimension in the Modern Age. It is surprisingly developed and popular to the readers. In the modern busy world, the readers generally satisfy their quest reading short stories. Because they do not get enough time and scope to study novels. So they generally want to taste the core of literature by reading short stories. Moreover short stories are read by the readers from the time immemorial. As a result, we should know the ins and outs of the short story as a literary form. In our present discussion, we have tried to write an essay on the short story in modern literature with special reference to the more important short story writers.


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